DRC colonels get death penalty for killing Chinese workers

Six people, including two army colonels, have been convicted to death by a military court in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in connection with the murder of two Chinese mine workers in March.

Four other military personnel were sentenced to 10 years in prison by the Ituri Military Court on Friday.All but one of those receiving the death sentence were members of the military.

The two colonels were accused of planning an attack on a convoy in March, with the aim of stealing four gold bars and $6,000 in cash being transported by the victims, who were returning from a gold mine.

In the DRC, death penalties are regularly handed down, but systematically commuted to life imprisonment.

“This must serve as an example for the black sheep in the armed forces,” Lieutenant Jules Ngongo, spokesman for military operations in the gold-rich Ituri province, told the AFP news agency.

Attacks on Chinese-managed mines and Chinese workers are not uncommon in resource-rich eastern DRC, which has been ravaged by militia violence for decades.

Last year, the DRC government placed security officials in charge of the administration of Ituri and neighbouring North Kivu province in a bid to curb violence. However, the measure had failed to stop attacks.

The defence team said they would appeal.

The DRC’s President, Felix Tshisekedi, has replaced the head of the country’s armed forces as part of a broader military reforms aimed at boosting efficiency.

In a statement from the presidency on Monday, Christian Tshiwewe Songhesha, former commander of the Republican Guard, an elite unit in charge of protecting the head of state, was named the new army chief of staff, replacing Célestin Mbala Musense.

The new deputy chief of staff in charge of operations, Jerome Chico Tshitambwe, comes from the same unit.

“Almost the entire staff have been replaced by young officers. Several are from the Republican Guard, but not all, and that’s because they have proven themselves,” the president’s Deputy Director of Communications, Giscard Kusema, said.

The DRC’s army is fighting multiple armed groups, mainly in its restive east where ethnic militias and other armed groups are battling for control near the borders with Uganda and Rwanda. -AFP

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